Copy Cat, the clone of High Brow Cat, arguably one of the greatest Western performance sires of all time, is at age 2, being compared to his famous “originator” not only in looks, but in personality and potential, as well.
The handsome stallion bears a striking resemblance to the original with a conformation to be envied and a personality that, for some who know both horses intimately, say is just like the original “Cat.” Both share the same residence at Weatherford Equine’s breeding center in Weatherford, Texas, where they are managed under the guidance of Dr. Justin Ritthaler.
The cloning of High Brow Cat made headlines around the world. While cloning of other high profile animals had already happened – most notably the cutting horse Royal Blue Boon, barrel racing standout Scamper and the bucking bull Bodacious – the cloning of High Brow Cat certainly raised some eyebrows. Not only was he the sire of $57 million in money earners at the time, but it had recently been announced the great stallion was sterile.
Copy Cat was a part of a package deal struck between Dallas businessman Darren Blanton, of Colt Ventures, and Jack Waggoner, who sold the clone, not yet foaled, with High Brow Cat for a reported $10 million. Foaled in July 2013, Copy Cat was introduced to the world in December of that year during a tribute to High Brow Cat at the National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) Futurity.
All the while, the question of registering clones continued to be debated in the courtrooms in the case of Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture v. American Quarter Horse Association. For Blanton, having a clone was neither a benefit nor a controversy. “I think it would be good if we could register the babies, but we weren’t really planning on it,” Blanton told Quarter Horse News. “It’s nothing but upside if it works.”
With the decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court decision that would have allowed the registration of clones, the probability of a registered clone seems rather slim (the plaintiffs are asking for another hearing as of this writing). Yet Blanton remains enthusiastic about the future of Copy Cat.
“I have always said the best thing about High Brow Cat is the fact that God gave him the gift of incredible DNA that produces perhaps the most consistent foal quality in the sport of cutting,” he said about the stallion, whose foals have earned nearly $65 million to date. “That is something that should be unique and had I owned him at the time, I would not have cloned him. But the fact is Copy Cat exists, and is a carrier of that same DNA.”
That DNA, in fact, is also of rare quality. Cloned by Texas A&M researcher Katrin Hinrichs, DVM, PhD, the DNA is an exact match to that of High Brow Cat. The cloning involved a new mitochondrial DNA procedure which utilized an egg from High Brow Cat’s maternal line to produce an exact replica of the original DNA.
“My hope is that Copy Cat will have a long and productive life,” said Blanton. “We will be putting him into training soon, because every horse needs a job. He may become a horse we rope off on our ranch or use as a practice horse in cutting – doing what we can to develop his mind and keep him healthy.”
Blanton says that he will be exploring the rules and regulations regarding registries outside the U.S. and will work to develop relationships in those countries to provide Copy Cat’s DNA through frozen semen and other emerging technologies.
“The breeding business is an exciting and continually evolving aspect of owning horses,” said Blanton. “It’s intriguing to be so closely involved in that aspect and to have a horse like Copy Cat to perhaps be the one to break new ground.”
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